By Barb Arland-Fye
The Catholic Messenger
DAVENPORT — Ten years ago, 80 adults experiencing homelessness faced the possibility of having no place to stay as fall’s cooler weather approached. Five or six organizations also faced the loss of funds desperately needed to serve the adults, including Humility of Mary Housing Inc., because John Lewis Community Services was closing its shelter on Sept. 20, 2008.
But a religious community’s faith in God, coupled with a collaborative effort that bordered on the miraculous, gave the shelter and its guests a new lease on life. On Sept. 21, Humility Homes and Services celebrated the 10th anniversary at the shelter previously known as Humility of Mary Shelter before its merger with Humility of Mary Housing this year.
“Ten years later, we honor our individual and collective vision, faith and commitment to be with the most vulnerable in our community,” said John DeTaeye, director of development for Humility Homes and Services (HHS). “We mark 10 years of uninterrupted, continuous and expanding services at the shelter to meet the housing needs of our community.”
Sister Johanna Rickl, CHM, shared the history of the arduous undertaking that began with her religious community, the Congregation of The Humility of Mary. John Lewis Community Services (JLCS), facing insurmountable financial difficulties, was the lead agency for nearly $1 million worth of grants distributed to agencies involved in various housing services, said Sr. Rickl. She had just taken over as chair of the Humility of Housing Inc. Board (HMHI), one of the impacted agencies.
The HMHI board appointed a task force to investigate possibilities. A decision was made to create a new corporation to take on the shelter and services, to avoid jeopardizing HMHI’s housing services. That decision required preparation of a new Housing and Urban Development (HUD) grant, fundraising to provide start-up costs and funding for at least the remainder of the year and arranging with the Iowa Finance Authority to continue use of the shelter building, Sr. Rickl said. HMHI looked to other agencies in the community to assist with responsibility for services that John Lewis had been providing.
HMHI eventually reached agreement with the Iowa Finance Authority that included a five-year delay in beginning payments on the building’s debts. Many people from HMHI and various agencies and organizations, including the Diocese of Davenport, worked diligently pulling all of the pieces together, with the result being the creation of Humility of Mary Shelter Inc. (HMSI).
News went out to the Quad-City community Sept. 10, 2008. Over the next five days a job fair was held to hire employees and other issues were checked off the to-do list. A community brunch was organized that resulted in checks and promises of almost $200,000, Sr. Rickl said. Staff and volunteers got to work cleaning and preparing the shelter for opening on Sept. 21.
“What I call ‘the miracle’ could only have happened with the dialogue, prayer, support and action of the whole community,” Sr. Rickl said at the 10th anniversary celebration. “Throughout these 10 years there have been many challenges and struggles but the dedicated, hardworking staff members have provided continuous and expanding services at the shelter.”
Sr. Rickl thanked Emily Harvey, CEO of Humility Homes and Services, and all the current staff and board members who continue the legacy.
“Today, we celebrate with gratitude and joy that many persons have found help because our community cares. Thank you and please continue to partner with Humility Homes and Services as we recommit ourselves to serving the most vulnerable in our communities.”
Chris Adams, who was previously homeless for many years, wrote a poem and read it at the celebration. “… Homelessness is a very hard life to live every day of your life. But having a place to live is even better. I can get up in the morning and make a pot of coffee and it’ll be done by 8 a.m. … Being homeless, you chopped the wood, get the coffee pot on when the fire is finally going, then the coffee will be done by noon….”
Also offering remarks were Davenport Mayor Frank Klipsch, Henry Vargas and his daughter, Rita Vargas, and Henry Marquard of Genesis Health System. Chris Dunn played the guitar and Christie Adamson, chief operating officer for Humility Homes and Services, shared closing thoughts.
“On behalf of the team at Humility Homes and Services, I wanted to thank you for your ongoing commitment to those in our community without a home. And more than anything today, I am reminded why so many of us chose to support this work, some with volunteering, others with financial contributions and a lot of us with our chosen careers,” Adamson said.
“The people that we serve through the shelter and in all of our programs have an unwavering resilience in the face of the most scary and challenging part of their lives. Their stories of courage, strength and commitment to finding a path to stable housing reminds all of us how much stronger our community is when those with the least are helped first. Homelessness in our community should be a rare occurrence and brief for anyone who experiences it.”
In recognition of the merger and long-time service to the community, the Diocese of Davenport has made a $5,000 contribution to Humility Homes and Services.